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Stakeholders Flay Students’ Loan Programme

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The nation’s education system, over the years, is confronted with challenges of inadequate funding, poor budgetary allocation, corruption and unstable academic calendar.
However, with prevailing economic challenges and high cost of living, many students and prospective ones are afraid of pursuing a university degree as the cost of education keeps rising.
Currently, most federal and state universities charge between N30,000 and N50,000 from a prospective student as an acceptance fee before being allowed to register, even though this cost excludes other expenses.
Worried by the challenges the education sector faces, the country’s President-elect, Bola Tinubu, in his acceptance speech, promised to give priority attention to education.
He assured Nigerian students of his administration’s resolve to reintroduce education loans and make credit facilities available.
Tinubu promised to reintroduce students’ loans to increase access to university education.
The student loan scheme is aimed at reducing the growing financial burden of higher education in countries facing severe constraints on public expenditure. It is a financial aid the government gives indigent students pursuing university or college degrees.
This practice, however, is not new in the history of the country’s education system. During the General Yakubu Gowon administration in 1974, students were eligible to apply for a yearly loan of N300; N400 or N500, which covered tuition, books, transportation and accommodation, depending on their programme or longer, and repayable within 20 years after graduation.
The scheme enabled institutions to meet their internal expenditure, while there was no record of strikes nor disruption in academic activities. The funds were made available to the universities directly and each student only received the residual amount after all necessary fees had been deducted.
Efforts to reintroduce the loan scheme over the years have proved abortive. Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, recently sponsored a bill to bring back the loan scheme.
It was titled, ‘Bill for an Act to provide easy access to higher education for Nigerians through interest-free loans from Nigeria Education Bank, established in this Act with a view to providing education for all Nigerians and for other purposes connected thereto.’
The bill is also seeking the establishment of an Education Bank to administer and coordinate the management of the student loan scheme.
Gbajabiamila said the hardship being faced by the unemployed and low-income earners coupled with high cost of living prompted him to initiate the bill.
He said: “It is time for us to start thinking outside the box. It is time for us to start looking at international best practices. Nigeria is not isolated from the rest of the world. We borrow ideas from the rest of the world, just like they can borrow from Nigeria as well. And then, we tweak those ideas to suit our peculiarities in our country. At the end of the day, we achieve more or less the same result.”
The beneficiaries, according to the speaker, are expected to begin repayment two years after their National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).
Stakeholders react
Meanwhile, stakeholders in the sector were divided on the propriety or otherwise of the scheme. While a group faulted the proposed reintroduction of the student loan scheme, describing it as a deliberate ploy by the Federal Government to distract the public from the real issues of underfunding confronting the sector, others urged the government to build an appropriate template for the programme for public debate before implementation.
President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, faulted Tinubu’s decision, saying the union does not believe in the programme.
Osodeke argued that the loan scheme couldn’t bring the needed change in the university system. “Definitely, we don’t believe in the introduction of the student loan scheme.”
National Coordinator of Education Rights Campaign (ERC), a non-governmental organisation, Hassan Taiwo Soweto, advised Tinubu to shun the idea of introducing student loans, saying, it is not the way forward for tertiary education.
Soweto stated that the programme is prone to life-long indebtedness from those who benefit from such loans, citing the case of former President Barack Obama of United States of America (USA), who paid off his student loan in 2005.
“This is just an example of how student loans subject people to life-long indebtedness. We are talking of Obama, who is obviously rich, how much more ordinary Americans? Besides, America is a first-world country, while Nigeria is a third-world neo-colonial country, where jobs are not even guaranteed at the end of one’s graduation from the university. The consequence of student loans in Nigeria can be more devastating where students graduate for years and cannot secure a job that pays them enough to pay off the debt,” he explained.
Soweto advised the incoming administration to increase budgetary allocation to the sector to meet the 26 per cent global standard recommended by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
“When this is achieved, the government should ensure that the money and resources are well managed, there should be in place, enforcement of democratic management of the institutions,” said.
For any meaningful development in the sector, Soweto advised the incoming administration to implement policies recommended by stakeholders in the sector.
On his part, Prof. Rotimi Olatunji of the School of Communication, Lagos State University (LASU) urged the government to exercise restraint in implementing the programme, but make elaborate and further consultation with stakeholders in the sector.
“One important thing that the government must consider is that the capacity to pay the debt is dependent on the ability to get employment. So, if that is ensured, students given the loans would have the opportunity to work and the repayment should be in piecemeal on the order of the workers when they begin to work,” he said.
Rather than reintroducing the student loan, Prof. Olatunji called for an outright free education, “because with the loan, you are putting more burden on the government giving the students resources to be following up on them to pay their debt. So, instead of this, the government should just give bursaries if they can not give scholarships because some of us enjoyed some level of minimal bursaries.”
He said many stakeholders are objecting to the student loan scheme for fear that the government may abdicate its responsibility of funding the sector properly.
“What the government can do to ameliorate the sufferings in the sector is to ensure free education at the federal university level and they shouldn’t bite more than they can chew.
“Another thing is that they should allow autonomy in universities. Also, I expect that all the arrears and gratuity that were denied by the outgoing government should be paid to the academic union,” he urged.

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Education

RSG Distributes Science Equipment To Secondary Schools

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Rivers State Government has distributed  science equipment worth over  N180 million to all Senior Secondary Schools in the State.
The reception and distribution ceremony took place last Monday at the Senior Secondary Schools Board( RSSSSB) office, Emekuku Street, D/Line, in Port Harcourt.
The State Commissioner for Education, Dr. Ovy  Chinedu, who flagged off the event, said the science equipment were to improve learning, mostly on science subjects in schools.
According to him, the State Governor, Sir Siminalayi Fubara, is committed and determined to take education to the next level, adding that the Governor has passion for quality education.
“ I appreciate the Governor, Sir Siminalayi Fubara, as he approved and released the money to make this happen.
“He has great passion to deliver quality education and take education to the next level in the State. It was sleepless nights for us to ensure that the equipment arrives so that students can use them for their exams and learn”, Dr. Chinedu said.
The Commissioner urged teachers to put more effort to deliver equality education, saying that they can request for whatever thing needed to improve the system in terms of education and Government will respond immediately, hence they want to give students the right  of training and learning.
Earlier in his address, the acting Chairman of the Board and Director of Administration, Ikechi Godpower, said, since the inception of this administration led by Governor Siminalayi Fubara, education in general, particularly teaching and learning is wearing a new look in the State.
He explained that despite the rough terrain the Governor found himself for the past one year of his administration, he has continuously proved to the world that education is the bedrock of growth in our society.
According to him, the last time the board experienced such was in 2019, during the tenure of late Dame Grace Okwulehie, adding that since then six acting Chairmen have headed the  board without this favour.
“ I thank the Governor, Sir Siminalayi Fubara, for giving education priority, mostly the elevation of seven teachers to the position of permanent secretary, to makeup the counsel of Ahithophel to support the administration, This is the first time since the creation of Rivers State.
“Thank you,  Governor Fubara, for giving us a resourceful , diligent and dutiful commissioner of education, who shared the same character traits with you and has uncommon passion for education”, Godpower said.
Speaking on behalf of the principals, while receiving the equipment the Principal of Government Secondary School, Borikiri, Port Harcourt,  Mr. Nwala Henry Uzoma, pledged to use the materials.
He thanked the governor through the commissioner of education to have provided the science materials to aid learning, saying that this will certainly improve the knowledge of science students.

By: Tonye Orabere

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Education

RSU Receives Full Accreditation In 18 Courses

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The authorities of Rivers State University, Nkpolu-Oroworukwo, Port Harcourt says it has received full accreditation from the National Universities Commission (NUC) for all 18 programmes presented to the commission.
The institution said the approval for the academic programmes followed the last accreditation exercise conducted by the commission in October/November 2023.
The Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Nlerum Okogbule, disclosed this during a press briefing  at the Council auditorium in Port Harcourt , recently.
Prof. Okogbule said it was the second time the institution has achieved 100 accreditation exercises since its inception, following a similar milestone last year.
He stated, “It is my pleasure to inform you and the general public that Rivers State University scored 100 per cent in the October/November 2023 Accreditation Exercise conducted by the National Universities Commission.
“The university obtained full Accreditation status for all 18 academic programmes presented for the exercise.
“This is a rare and unprecedented feat in the annals of the history of the University. It is the second time that the university will record this level of success in the accreditation exercise since its establishment in 1980. It will be recalled that last year we received 100 per cent in the 24 programs presented.”
On the availability of facilities for the newly accredited programmes, Prof. Okogbule noted that the university has the needed facilities in place to run the programmes.
He stated, “The clause of every accreditation exercise looked at not only the academic programme, the content, the staff, and all that but also the physical facilities. They looked at the number of classrooms you have, the staff offices, all those things, the laboratories, and so on.
“So it’s on the basis of that, that they came up with their recommendations and in our own case, in respect of these programmes inspected, we have satisfied and met the requirements for the running of these programmes.
So they looked at the facilities and found them worthy, but as I always say, we can always improve. We can always add to what is available.”

By: Akujobi Amadi

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Education

UNIPORT Honours Prof Ebeku

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The Management and Staff of the Law Faculty, University of Port Harcourt, have honoured Professor Kaniye Ebeku for instituting an academic award for the overall best graduating student of the faculty.
This unanimous decision was reached at the Law Faculty Meeting held at the Faculty Board Room, UNIPORT, at the Weekend.
In his Remarks, the Acting Dean of the Faculty, Dr Bristol Alagbariya,  while commending Professor Ebeku, said he has laid a solid foundation in the faculty, insisting that his works and legacies cannot go unrecognised.
Alagbariya, who described Ebeku as an erudite Professor of Law and astute academician, stated that it was upon such recognition of good works that the management of the faculty decided on the honour.
Receiving the award on behalf of Prof Ebeku, a member of the academic staff of the faculty, Dr Solomon Ebeku, lauded the thoughtfulness of the management of the faculty for the honour bestowed on Professor Ebeku.
According to him, Professor Ebeku had contributed immensely not only to the welfare and growth of the faculty but also to the legal profession.
He said, “Professor Ebeku is my elder brother and is in Abuja for  the inauguration and retreat of the Chairmen and members of Nigerian Universities Governing Council.
“He has done well for himself and the people of Ekpeye land. He served the state in various capacities, and is currently serving the country. Certainly, here is a man who has contributed so much to the development of this faculty and the legal profession, both nationally and internationally”.
Recall that Professor Kaniye Ebeku, a former Rivers State Commissioner for Education as well as Water Resources and Rural Development, was the pioneer Dean of the faculty upon its founding and played significant roles in laying the structural and academic foundations of the young faculty.

By: Lady Godknows Ogbulu

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